California Truancy Laws

tattooed minor rebelling against school
California’s truancy laws require children to go to school.

1. What are California's laws regarding truancy?

California's truancy laws require children to go to school. The laws apply to children between the ages of 6 and 18. These children are subject to compulsory education.

California's truancy laws are found in the Education Code. One of them is California Education Code 48260. This law defines a truant as a child who, without a valid excuse, is:

  • absent for 3 full days in a single school year,
  • tardy 3 times in a year,
  • absent 3 times for more than 30 minutes, or
  • any combination of the above.

Students can also be chronically truant. California Education Code 48263.6 defines chronic truants as children who have missed 10 percent of the school year.

2. Examples

  • Becky skips the whole school day to go to the beach. She has already been tardy once and missed an hour of class once. None of her absences were excused. By skipping the day, she becomes a truant.
  • Without a valid excuse, Josh misses 3 of the first 26 school days. He is a chronic truant.

3. Are there criminal charges related to truancy?

There are some other criminal offenses that are often associated with truancy.

For parents, they are:

An underage student accused of skipping class could be charged with related juvenile crimes such as:

4. What are the acceptable excuses for truancy?

Minors can only be truants if their absence from school was unexcused.

California Education Code 48205 lists 11 ways a school absence is excused:

  1. The student is sick,
  2. A local health officer has issued a quarantine,
  3. The student has a medical, dental, vision, or chiropractic appointment,
  4. So the student can attend an immediate family member's funeral,
  5. For jury duty,
  6. The student is the custodial parent of a child who has a medical appointment or is sick,
  7. For justifiable personal reasons that have been approved by the school,
  8. To serve as a member of a precinct board for an election,
  9. To spend time with an immediate family member on active military duty,
  10. To go to the student's own naturalization ceremony and become a U.S. citizen, and
  11. At the discretion of the school administrator.

Showing that absence from school was excused can prevent being labeled a truant.

Truancy accusations can also be defended with proof that the student is being educated in another way. Examples of alternative education methods include:

  • Home-schooling,
  • Attendance at a private school,
  • Private tutoring, and
  • Advance placement education.

Students can also be exempt from mandatory attendance if they have a part-time work permit.

5. What are the consequences of truancy?

The consequences for truancy impact both the student and the parent.

5.1. Student penalties

Students who are truants can face repercussions at school.

Most schools in California have created School Attendance and Review Boards (SARBs). These Boards have wide discretion to take action to keep a minor in school. They can:

  • strip students of school privileges,
  • require attendance at meetings with teachers and the student's parents, and
  • require the student to attend counseling.

If the SARB's actions do not reduce the school absences, it can refer the student to the local Juvenile Court or district attorney.

The Court or prosecutor can issue more severe penalties against a truant student. They can:

Throughout, these penalties focus on getting the minor to attend school. They are not designed to punish them.

5.2. Penalties for the parents of a truant student

The penalties for a parent of a truant student are more severe.

If the SARB thinks the parent is allowing their child to miss school, the Board can refer the case to the district attorney. Each referral is handled on a case-by-case basis.

If prosecutors think the parents are not making an effort to get their child to school, criminal charges could be brought under Penal Code 270.1a PCfailing to supervise a child's school attendance. Convictions carry up to:

  • 1 year in jail, and
  • $2,500 in fines.

Prosecutors can file less severe charges for contributing to a child's delinquency, though. For example, it can be charged as an infraction, which only comes with a maximum fine of $250.

You may also find helpful our article on truancy laws in Colorado and the penalties for school truancy in Nevada

Free attorney consultations...

The attorneys at Shouse Law Group bring more than 100 years collective experience fighting for individuals. We're ready to fight for you. Call us 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at 855-LAW-FIRM for a free case evaluation.

Regain peace of mind...

Shouse Law Defense Group has multiple locations throughout California. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

Office Locations

Shouse Law Group has multiple locations all across California, Nevada, and Colorado. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

Call us 24/7 (855) 396-0370